It would be remiss of me to not address what we are all trying to manage – our feelings and the impact of so many unmanageable events in our lives right now. Although it is normal to distract ourselves by:
- Working too much, staying too busy
- Eating or drinking too much
- Looking at the computers/social media
- Watching TV, shopping on line
The list goes on. Yet at the end of whatever distraction we use, there we are – hanging out with those uncomfortable feelings! The more we try to avoid them, the stronger they are!
The same is true for our physical health – the more we avoid, neglect or turn away from taking care of ourselves, the more likely it is that our health will take a hit. Make no mistake, our physical health and emotional health are intricately tied together When our emotions are out of balance, it will negatively impact our physical health and visa versa.
In the Traditional Chinese Medicine system of wellness, every organ has an emotion associated with it. In addition to the physical symptoms associated with an organ imbalance – there are emotional imbalances. Through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is important to work toward balance of all emotions. If we find our emotions are extreme in one area they will negatively impact other emotions.
Let us look at 5 organ systems and their respective emotions.
The emotion associated with the Liver is ANGER – which may also manifest in impatience, frustration, resentment and edginess. I am sure that these feelings have applied to all of us some time or another during the last few months! The Liver energy (qi) controls the flow of the qi energy through all the meridians. Meridians are pathways (think highways) that transport the flow of qi through the body. When we are under stress, that qi energy can get stuck (think traffic jam). It is important to keep that flow of qi energy moving freely.
Our lifestyle (what we eat, drink, exercise) will also have an impact on the balance of the Liver Qi. In this sense, the Liver energy is much like
the liver as an organ. If we drink or eat to an excess, it tends to affect the liver. When we are taking medications, we often have to have our liver enzymes checked to make (using the example of alcohol) which negatively impacts our liver and the liver qi.
It is important to keep our Liver Qi energy moving through exercise, walks, deep breathing and yoga during these times.
Grief is the emotion associated with the Lung. I find this very apropos as grief and feelings of loss are so prevalent in these uncertain time. Unexpressed grief may cause long term contraction of the Lungs and lead to lung health issues. However, grief that is expressed can strengthen the internal foundation of health.
It is very important to experience the feelings associated with grief and sadness as they happen. There is nothing like a good cry to release emotions that can become blocked.
Foods to support the Lung: eating cooked and warming foods helps the digestion which, in turn, prevents the build-up of mucous and dampness in the lung. Avoiding dairy and chilled foods will also be helpful.
The Heart, in TCM, is where our spirit/emotional center is located. Often, we say the heart rules the spirit or “shen”. This is a very important concept in TCM. When our spirit is calm, we can easily navigate other emotions and situations in our daily life. However, when our spirit is agitated, upset or diffused we may experience:
- Being scattered or confused
- Extremes emotions such as mania or depression
- Memory Loss
Emotional reactions such as joy, anger, sadness, grief, fright and their manifestations (expressions, movements and gestures) are housed in the heart and our spirit. When our Heart qi is closer to balance, we are able to manage other emotions with more ease. With this in mind, it is important to try to “stay in the middle” of the lane and not in the extremes.
The emotion associated with the Spleen is WORRY!! Even when life seem like easy street – worry is a very common emotion. Since the Spleen qi also oversees our digestion, may times excess worry will manifest in digestive issues. We may hear about people who, when under stress, may experience “bouts” of digestion issues
Increased worry = increased digestive issues! When worry is managed, digestive issues can also be managed. Conversely, if we have excess digestive issues – we often worry! It is important to find balance in both.
Protecting our digestion is very important. Eat primarily cooked foods (easy to digest). Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Drink warm water or tea with meals. Use moderate amounts of warming spices (pepper, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg). Avoid cold foods such as foods right out of the fridge (let sit out), ice water and ice cream.
The emotion associated with the Kidney is FEAR! Yikes – in this pandemic time, it is most certainly hard not to be fearful! The Kidneys represent the root energy of the body – the foundation of all our qi energies. The roots of our tree. Like the roots, Fear is often something that we don’t acknowledge or feel on the surface. We
English vocabulary word of afraid illustration
may not even be aware of our feelings of fear and they may manifest as other feelings.
A bit of healthy fear is good – it keeps us safe a protected. However, excess fear can weaken our root energy and lead to a depletion of our adrenal glands and immune system.
In review, we covered 5 main organs and 5 main emotions in TCM.
Liver – Anger
Lung – Grief
Heart – Excessive feelings
Spleen – Worry
Kidney – Fear
Too much of any one emotion can impact the organ and weaken the other organ systems and emotions. It is very important to find a balance. If you find yourself feeling too much fear, for example, work hard to release. Same with Anger. Or any emotion.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the foundation of Yin and Yang – which represents a state of balance – in our body and the world. To this end, it is important to work toward keeping ourselves in a healthy state of emotional balance.